#1 Why Only Five People in Washington Take Congressman Darrell Issa Seriously
San Diego’s own Congressman Darrell Issa is making headlines nationally this morning, but not in the way that the local daily paper would like you to believe.
Today’s UT-San Diego has a Page Two story up featuring a picture featuring Issa holding up a piece of paper, with a caption that says “interviews with employees at the Cincinnati IRS office indicate they were directed by Washington to target conservative groups.”
The north county’s answer to Joe McCarthy went on CNN Sunday morning to tout his latest ‘evidence’, which turned out to be highly edited selections from staff interviews with IRS agents. Political correspondent Candy Crowley called Issa’s bluff, actually reading the documents and pointing out that they proved nothing.
From Think Progress:
In fact, after hearing Crowley read the transcript of an interview, Issa himself admitted that he has yet to uncover evidence that demonstrates IRS coordination with Washington.
Issa also used his Sunday morning talking head time to brand current administration spokesman Jay Carney as a “paid liar.” (Well, duh, isn’t that what all spokesmen could be called?).
Former Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs went on Monday’s MSNBC Morning Joe to defend Carney:
“I mean, it’s a stunning thing,” Gibbs said of Issa’s charges. “It’s why five people in this town take Darrell Issa seriously and it’s the surest bet the Republicans are very much on the verge of overplaying their hand publicly and the American people will lose interest in their side of this. They want to see the IRS cleaned up, but they will understand quickly that Darrell Issa is doing nothing more than politicizing this event.”
The GOP spinmeisters, as evidenced by today’s UT-San Diego coverage, are trumpeting a ‘new’ report on IRS spending for conferences. This is old news, being pumped up as a new revelation. Buried in the Associated Press account in today’s paper is the information that the IRS has already reduced such spending from $37.6 million in 2010 to $4.9 million in 2012. None-the-less a $50 million figure is making the headlines, a figure achieved by lumping together three years worth of spending.
Unnoticed by the local press is the fact that these high-ticket ‘improvement, leadership and efficiency’ conferences are the kind of ‘business’ enterprises that made local conservative hero Carl DeMaio wealthy.
Columnist Andrew Sullivan has decided that he’s had enough of the Congressman’s antics and penned a full frontal assault on his credibility, reprinting large sections of stories in the New Yorker and NPR that allege a past criminal (grand theft auto and arson) activity by Issa.
From The Dish:
But if you apply the standards of evidence Issa uses to indict the president – pure innuendo, speculation and smears – then you can fairly say that Issa was a likely car thief, con-man, and arsonist. Having figured out how to steal cars, he then repurposed his expertise to set up a company to prevent car theft. In the end, it made him a multi-millionaire. And former crook.
#2 GOP Leader Tony Kvaric Bleats For Meat in School Lunches
Today’s round up of the news starts with public education. And one of the ways the English language gets mauled by those who have an aversion to the ‘public’ part of it.
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees approved a proposal yesterday to incorporate meatless Mondays into its cafeteria menus for elementary and K-8 schools for the coming school year.
This isn’t some radical notion. The concept started a decade ago, as an initiative backed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A report by the American Meat Institute in February 2011 found that 18% of American households now participate in Meatless Mondays. Oprah’s endorsed it. School districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Oakland and Arlington, Virginia all participate.
Note that the SDUSD policy doesn’t prohibit bringing a baloney and ketchup sandwich (a high school favorite of mine) from home, so if a student wants animal protein they can have it.
While the jury is NOT in on meat consumption having a relationship with mortality (it won’t kill you to eat a steak, apparently), I heartily endorse the net results of meatless Mondays, as reported in a 2012 study, finding that 73% of participants are eating more vegetables as a result. And then there’s the relationship between factory farming and greenhouse gas production in case you need another reason.
For some, however, the very idea of taking a day off from eating meat is simply heretical. Witness San Diego’s top GOP dog Tony Kvaric’s comment:
“This is insanity. ‘Pro-choice’ is out and government coercion is in. Shame on the school board for denying children the choice and opportunity to have a balanced meal just to further a political agenda.”
Coinciding with the school’s district’s decision to deny red-blooded American meat to children came the announcement yesterday that SDUSD’s purchases of local, regional and organic foods over the past three years has passed the one million pound mark.
My SDUSD kid, for the record, brings her lunch from home every day. This has nothing to do with cost, Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays. She says the food “sucks”.
#3 NSA: The Great Hall of Two Way Mirrors
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the last 48 hours have been filled with revelation upon revelation about US government electronic data collection programs. The Guardian, which stared things off with Glen Greenwald’s story about a Patriot Act Section 215 order, continues to be the go-to news site for information.
New developments since yesterday’s column here on the subject, include disclosure of a NSA program called PRISM that involves tapping into the central servers of nine major internet companies, the revelation that credit card transactions are indeed part of the collection program, the release byAnonymous of NSA documents outlining the original vision for the program and a stern warning from James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence that even talking about all this stuff is a bad idea.
Meanwhile, President Obama is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a gigantic estate here in California called Sunnylands.
After months of leaked reports about Beijing’s cyber espionage campaign against US corporations and military targets in the lead-up to the Sunnylands meeting, Obama was expected to put cyber-security near the top of the agenda—and he probably will still do so.
But now Xi has an easy rejoinder to any criticisms from Obama: how can the US complain when has been caught running a large-scale data harvesting program? The NSA’s inclusion of Americans among its targets has raised the most controversy, but don’t forget that the program is purportedly aimed at foreigners—surely many Chinese among them.
What’s more, the central US criticism has been that by targeting corporations and intellectual property, China’s online intrusions don’t follow the well-established rules of nation vs. nation espionage. But the NSA’s snooping suggests that Washington is all too comfortable tweaking rules to its own benefit.
This Tweet says it all:
China built a Great Firewall & people knew they weren’t free. America built a hall of 2-way mirrors & people felt they were free. #PRISM
— Kevin Ruffe (@booksNbeer) June 7, 2013
#4 Goldsmith Draws the Line at Filling Potholesvia lucas2012infos
Credit goes to UT-San Diego for breaking this morning’s top local story, yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of the feud between Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Taking a page from Filner’s standoff with the Tourism Marketing District, the City Attorney is refusing to endorse documentation attesting to the legality of a $35 million bond issue.
At stake is funding city officials expected to use for repairing city streets ($5.15 million), library expansion/construction for facilities serving the Hillcrest and Paradise Hills neighborhoods ($7 million), a new fire station serving east Mission Valley ($3.7 million) and restoring the Mission Beach sea wall at Belmont Park ($1.4 million).
Goldsmith included a written warning to bond underwriters, in what should have been a routine endorsement, saying:
“Upon taking office on December 3, 2012, Mayor Bob Filner implemented new policies involving the role of the City Attorney over the City Attorney’s objection… Among the practical effects of these policies are that the City Attorney’s knowledge of the activities of the Mayor and the City and the opportunity to provide legal guidance are limited. These policies heighten the risk that there may be material facts involving legal issues of which the City Attorney is not aware and has had no opportunity to affect.”
Filner responded in the UT-San Diego account, saying:
“Because of all the problems that cities and corporations have had with issuing bonds, there are new federal laws that require the chief executives, personally, to attest to the honesty of the information in the bond issue,” Filner said. “Here’s what Mr. Goldsmith has, essentially, written: ‘Because the mayor doesn’t talk to me… I don’t know what’s going on in his office, therefore I cannot attest to the legality of his actions, therefore I can’t sign about the legality of this bond issue.’
“Tell me that’s not incredibly destructive. We may not be able to issue bonds.”
The dispute from between the Mayor and City Attorney is multidimensional. On the surface there are partisan differences. Digging deeper, the conflict is rooted in the mayor’s desire to open up city government to constituencies beyond the downtown/developer set that has traditionally ruled the roost.
And ultimately, it’s become obvious that this is personal: Goldsmith has been ratcheting up the pressure, penning a scathing op-ed last week and using his legal authority to disrupt city operations this week.
Filner, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and it’s pretty obvious that’s what he considers Goldsmith to be. The Mayor’s dispute with the City Attorney goes back to a fundamental disagreement over their respective roles.
That’s the hashtag the local twitterati are using to describe Mayor Bob Filner’s frenetic schedule of appearances, press releases and actions.
- Monday morning at 7:30am hizzonor was in Balboa Park as city employees began reworking the Plaza de Panama area to eliminate parking and make it more pedestrian friendly. Despite a legal memo from Jan Goldsmith, on behalf of valet parking concerns, urging delays in the make-over the work proceeded.
- San Diego’s LGBT Weekly announced yesterday that Mayor Filner will open the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus “Summer of Love” encore gala this Saturday, June 15 at Liberty Station, Point Loma. Proceeds from the ’60s-themed event will benefit the 150-member chorus’s mission of social change through musical outreach.
- This morning the Mayor announced the appointment of Bill Fulton, a nationally recognized expert on sustainable development as the new head of the city’s planning department, which will be renamed ‘Planning and Neighborhood Restoration department’.
This is a really, really big deal. Fulton is all about smart growth, infill development and other policies that could actually turn the vision of San Diego as a ‘City of Villages’ into a reality. Oh, and rightwingnutjobs at the ‘John and Ken Show’ hate him.
From Voice of San Diego:
Fulton’s hire will also allow Filner to make good on his promise to separate the city’s planning division from the Development Services Department, after they were consolidated by Mayor Jerry Sanders. Kelly Broughton, the leader of that department, left last week and has not been replaced.
Now, development services will focus on issuing permits and enforcing code violations. Planning will evaluate the merit of major development proposals and steer the city’s long-term growth.
#6 Privatization Without Supervision Raises Questions at NCTD
For several months KPBS/inewsource has stayed on the case of allegations about poor management, security and safety issues with the North Country Transit District, despite strenuous objections and pushback from that agency.
A February report revealed that the private contractor supplying NCTD with armed guards wasn’t training the employees– and hadn’t been for years. Security guards employed by Universal Protection Service appeared on KPBS television to talk about their concerns.
In March, the NCTD’s light rail Sprinter service was suspended following disclosure of concerns about the safety of its braking system. Executive Director Matthew Tucker blamed companies under contract for failing to report the issue of the non-compliant brake rotors. Maintenance and operations of Sprinter trains was contracted out to Veolia Transportation, which in turn contracts out to Bombardier Transportation.
Now KPBS is out with a report about an audit that found serious problems with NCTD management of more than 150 contracts to private companies, including everything from construction to legal counsel to bus operations. The nine month old audit was not presented to the transit authority’s directors until May of this year. An inewsource request for the Management Action Plan — the formal course of correction required by the audit – led to a NCTD response that “No responsive records” exist.
Although no bid ‘sole source’ contracts were specifically identified as an issue, NTCD has awarded at least 10 more sole-source procurements to vendors for at least $2.5 million since September.
The NCTD relies almost entirely on private contractors to keep its trains and buses safe and on budget for the millions of passengers riding the system each year. And, based on the KPBS report, it would appear as though supervision of those contractors is minimal to non-existent.
#7 The “R” Word Story Rises to the Top of the Pile
Today Luntz Global, the Alexandria, VA based strategy shop run by Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz, is conducting football focus groups. Participants are being paid $100 to share their opinions about professional football and, specifically, the Washington Redskins, the NFL franchise embroiled in controversy and a federal trademark lawsuit involving its name.
Facing a pending lawsuit (Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc.) that may deprive the Washington football franchise of the millions of dollars associated with federally trademarked rights and a call by ten members of Congress last month to change the team name, this is an issue that is finally coming to a head after years of simmering resentment.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response addressed to Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus would seem to indicate a lack of willingness to even negotiate the issue.
The Commissioner’s response that the team name remains “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect”, and claims an “overwhelming majority” of Americans view the name positively along with Native American tribal leaders who have said they have no problem with it. Goodell goes on to cite “the most recent detailed survey of Native Americans, conducted by the independent and highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that fewer than 10% considered the name objectionable.”
The team shouldn’t be called the racist name Redskins. There is no significant population of American Indians. The percentage of American Indians in D.C., the Census states, is 0.6 percent.
Thus the more correct correlation for a team name is the Washington N-Words.
If we’re going to be bigots, why not go big? Or, actually, why not get more realistic?
Instead of a stereotypical Indian wearing war paint, the mascot can be a Sambo-like dude smacking his lips on some watermelon. Or maybe take Sergio Garcia’s suggestion and have it be fried chicken.
What? That offends you? Seems ridiculous? The Redskins caricature is just as stereotypical and ugly.
If you want to know what it means to many American Indians when they hear Redskins — and I’m part American Indian so I guess I have some say in the use of both of these words — call the team the Washington N-Words.
Whoa. That sounds a little extreme.
Until you take a look back at the Washington team’s racist roots. From The Nation:
The beloved local team was the last NFL franchise to integrate, and only did so after a rising protest movement and the Kennedy administration forced the issue. The roadblock to integration was the man who brought the team to Washington and, not at all coincidentally, bestowed the team with the name “Redskins”: George Preston Marshall. Marsh
Perhaps this is why Goodell’s letter wasn’t received well in Congress, with Congresswoman Betty McCollum calling it “a statement of absurdity” and “another attempt to justify a racial slur.”
#8 Gov. Jerry Brown as the Adult in the Room
I got real chuckle out of the Los Angeles Times coverage of Friday’s legislative approval of Gov. Brown’s budget. The article talked about support from the Republican side of the aisle for Brown, using words like “restrained’ and (gasp) “conservative”. Now that the GOP hasn’t much choice when it comes to legislative matters, having been reduced to marginal status by voters after years of obstructionism, it would seem to make sense that Republicans would try to make the best of the hand that has been dealt them.
But, noooo. From the LA Times article:
Blogger Jon Fleischman, a former executive director of the California Republican Party, is incensed by even a syllable of GOP praise for Brown. Such approval undercuts the party’s ability to challenge Brown in the 2014 election or recapture enough legislative seats to end the Democrats’ supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, he said.
“If the public sees Jerry Brown as the adult in the room, why do they need Republicans?” Fleischman said. “It’s single-party rule right now…. Republicans need to claw back.”
Keep up the good work, Jon.
#9 DeMaio: Tell Your Friends They Don’t Have to Live in Socialism
A report focusing on the thin line separating the Carl DeMaio for Congress campaign organization and the political advocacy group, Reform San Diego has shed new light on the former City Councilman’s relationship with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative 501(c)4 organization that spends money in support of Republicans and against Democrats. Funded by billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, the group spent about $36.3 million in the 2012 federal elections.
The KPBS/inewsource story, authored by Claire Trageser and Brooke Williams, starts out with a vignette from fundraiser for DeMaio’s long-time political advocacy group, Reform San Diego, held less than three months after his defeat in the mayoral race. DeMaio has described the group as a “grassroots 527 Super-PAC campaign organization.”
It turns out that Americans for Prosperity have been ‘members’ of DeMaio’s ‘coalition for reform’ for several years now.
Quoting an invitation for winetasting event held near Lindberg Field, they call attention to the phrases “There is no cap or limit on the amount that can be donated,” and “Contributions can be personal or corporate.” Another “unlimited” event was held in April.
With about 100 people in attendance that January evening, DeMaio was introduced by San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, calling him “the future something,” because, she said, “Carl is never going away.” From the KPBS/inewsource account:
DeMaio rallied the audience, calling them “the loyal opposition.” Tell your friends, he said, that they don’t have to “live in socialism.”
“Our role is to be ready when San Diegans turn to us to pick up the pieces and lead,” DeMaio said. “And that day, my friends, will come.”
While Zapf was talking about the “future something”, the GOP National Congressional Committee had more specific ideas, having shelled out $9,000 for polling on DeMaio’s behalf.
No long after the second fundraiser, the website for Reform San Diego changed their wording about contributions to correspond to Federal requirements for election cycles in congressional races. Corporate and business funds were no longer accepted.
The names of staff, including DeMaio, also were removed from the website, and on May 8, DeMaio filed an amendment with San Diego’s elections authorities removing his name from the official title of the group.
Although DeMaio’s congressional campaign committee and Reform San Diego have the same mailing address and phone number, Reform San Diego, as a 527 PAC cannot directly advocate for the campaign. The Congressional candidate told KPBS/inewsource that contributions for Reform San Diego would not be used in his campaign. And, apparently, even though DeMaio remains as chair of the PAC and the phone is answered “You’ve reached the campaign office for Carl DeMaio”, federal election law is vague enough so this all is legal.
The news account goes on to tell us that Americans for Prosperity is, in fact, one of the members of Reform San Diego’s coalition. Participation in this alliance is something DeMaio has traditionally been closed mouth about. And we’ll never know how much money is involved.
#10 Hotels Torpedo Filner’s Tourism Compromise
If you believe the reports coming out of UT-San Diego, the city’s tourism plans are in danger because the large corporations that own hotels in the region have refused to sign off on the Indemnification Agreement that is the key to full funding of the TMD in San Diego.
Of course, it’s still very early in the process and multi-national corporations are notoriously slow to respond to these sorts of requests. But it would seem that, having been asked to back up their scheme with taxpayer protections, enthusiasm is waning for a program recently being touted as essential to the industry’s financial health.
From the UT-San Diego account:
Trouble is, major hotel corporations are balking at signing the legal documents, forcing the tourism agency to prepare a worst-case scenario spending plan that would rely on just 60 percent of the funding it normally gets from the city’s hotelier-run Tourism Marketing District via the room surcharge. The looming problem is unrelated to the earlier freeze in marketing dollars that stemmed from an on-again, off-again feud between hoteliers and Mayor Bob Filner over operation of the district.
To date, the city has received just 15 of the 226 waivers it needs to reach full funding, said Lorin Stewart, executive director of the marketing district.
Local hoteliers Terry Brown and Bill Evans did sign.
Not on this list is Papa Doug Manchester, publisher of UT-San Diego.
#11 Goldsmith’s Chalkgate Scandal Mushrooms
Our esteemed City Attorney, fresh from flaunting his office’s alleged persecution at the hands of Mayor Bob Filner, has seen a simple misdemeanor case mushroom into an international example of prosecutorial over-reach.
The story, originally reported on by Dorian Hargrove at the SD Reader, is simple:
- Protestor inspired by Occupy undertakes a crusade aimed at Bank of America, using washable chalk to write slogans outside three branch offices over a several month period.
- Protestor gets busted for vandalism.
Apparently at the urging of the urging of a Bank of America “security official”, the City Attorney decides to forgo the sane route of getting a simple conviction, fining the protestor and some combination of restitution/community service. Goldsmith’s office throws the prosecutorial book at the case, with charges that could add up to 13 years of jail time. That’s more time than Duke Cunningham did.
Then, to make matters worse, they successfully petitioned the judge hearing the case to exclude any and all mentions of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
International press coverage ensued. Even the Russians thought it was silly. The right leaning Drudge Report covered it. The used-to-be-left leaning Huffington Post covered it.
Sensing that things were getting out of hand yesterday, the City Attorney’s office issued a strongly worded statement saying that Goldsmith wasn’t personally in on the prosecution, promising that this was simply a criminal and not a political case. And this:
“This is a graffiti case where the defendant is alleged to have engaged in the conduct on 13 different occasions. The trial judge has already held that, under California law, it is still graffiti even if the material can be removed with water. Most graffiti can be removed. Also, the judge and a different pre-trial judge held that the First Amendment is not a defense to vandalism/graffiti,” read the statement.
Given the egregious behavior of BofA and other financial institutions (who’ve essentially escaped prosecution!) this claim about the First Amendment not applying as a potential defense is simply ridiculous on the face of it. Maybe BofA and Goldsmith can jail him first and then have a trial, like we were told as children they used to do in Russia.
#12 Senate Passes Border Surge…er, Immigration Bill
The Senate passed an immigration bill that would give a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. yesterday. The final vote was 68 to 32, with all Democrats and Independents along with 14 Republicans voting in favor.
While immigration advocacy groups are biting their tongue over the pork-laden provisions of the bill which will amount to a paramilitary surge in border communities, opponents are digging in their heels over at the House of Representatives.
From the very conservative National Review (emphasis mine) :
Perhaps the one thing that’s certain about the House of Representatives and immigration is that the bill that just passed the Senate could never, ever pass the House. Indeed, it’s difficult to overstate how little regard Republicans there have for it, even with the border-security amendment added by Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven.“Just like all the senators, I haven’t read it yet,” quips Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. The House should “fold it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window. Oh, is that not the right answer?” jokes Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “The Senate is, at this point, irrelevant,” observes Representative Ted Poe of Texas, the chairman of the House immigration caucus.
On This Day: 1936 – The United Auto Workers union staged its first sit-down strike, at the Fisher Body Plant in Flint, MI. 1940 – California’s first freeway was officially opened. It was the Arroyo Seco Parkway connecting Los Angeles and Pasadena. 1970 – Paul McCartney sued the other three Beatles to dissolve the partnership and gain control of his interest.
Tomorrow: Looking Back at July 2013.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
May * Bigger Than Watergate, Dumber Than Obamacare and More Dangerous Than a Leftist Bagman
April * Cochella (Twice), Taxes, Terrorists, and Testing
March *Sequestration, Taxifornication, Misinformation, and the Great Tourism Recession in San Diego
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs